OCEAN CITY – In a historic show of solidarity, thousands of recreational and commercial anglers, including a large contingent from the Ocean City area, convened in front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in an organized protest against perceived flaws in management policies.
Busloads of anglers from Florida to Massachusetts and from California to Alaska joined the “United We Fish” demonstration hoping to capture the attention of the dozens of federal lawmakers also in attendance. Two busloads of concerned anglers left early Wednesday from the Ocean City Fishing Center and dozens more from the area participated in an organized protest against the negative impacts of the Magnuson-Stevens Conservation and Management Act, which governs federal fisheries policy.
“I think it went really well,” said Captain Steve Whitelock of the “Happy Hooker” in Ocean City. “They estimated the number at around 3,000. I’m not a good judge of numbers, but I think it might have been considerably more than that.”
The event was deemed a success by many of those who attended, particularly because of the unified message the demonstration sent.
“It was great to see both recreational and commercial fishermen united to fight for this cause,” said Captain Chris Mizurak of the “Angler” in Ocean City. “Now that our voices have been heard, I hope they will begin to take care of us as much as they care about the fish.”
Whitelock agreed the unified voice lent credence to the message those in attendance hoped to send.
“The recreational guys were standing shoulder to shoulder with the commercial guys, which I think is pretty significant,” he said. “A lot of times, we fight among ourselves on some of these issues like percentages of quotas, but everybody was unified yesterday. I think they got the message.”
While no one disputes the need for careful regulation, a recurring theme was the need for responsible methods to set the regulations.
“The overall common theme was we’re all pro-conservation and we understand it’s difficult to count all the fish in the sea, but there has to be some responsible science behind it,” said “Angler” mate Dean Lo. “It seems like so many of these decisions are arbitrary, which was kind of the point of yesterday.”
Whitelock said decisions on quotas and closures are often made without real concern about the possible repercussions.
“It all comes down to the numbers,” he said. “Part of the problem is, when they realize they have made a mistake, they don’t go back and correct it.”